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Spacecraft Fire Safety Demonstration (Saffire)

Creating a safe environment for astronauts is the number one priority for all crew missions. Aboard the space station, astronauts have been able to conduct small-scale fire experiments, most recently during the BASS-M experiment.

The series of threeSpacecraft Fire Safety Experiments (Saffire)was established to investigate large-scale flame growth and material flammability limitsin space. The experiments are ignited in a Cygnus cargo vehicle after it has completed its primary International Space Station supply mission, departed the station, and before its planned destructive reentry to Earth.

Understanding how fire behaves in microgravity, and how different materials propagate flames in space is immensely important for the development of future crew spacecraft. It also will help inform operational protocols for dealing with fire emergencies, particularly when astronauts do not have the abilityto exita spacecraft or quickly return to Earth.

Saffire is managed by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division, which pioneersinnovative approaches and public-private partnerships to rapidly develop prototype systems, advance key capabilities, and validate operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.


Mission Completed July 2016

The Saffire-I experiment enclosure was approximately half a meter wide by 1 meter deep by 1.3 meter long and consisted of a flow duct and avionics bay. Inside the flow duct, the cotton-fiberglass blend burn sample measured 0.4 m wide by 1 meter long. When commanded by Orbital ATK and Saffire ground controllers operating from Dulles, Virginia, it was ignited by a hot wire. Previous to this experiment, the largest fire experiment that had been conducted in space is about the size of an index card.


Mission completed Nov. 27, 2016

Saffire-IIlaunched inside Orbital ATK’sCygnus spacecraft during its sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station in October 2016. This second experiment in the Spacecraft Fire Safety series builds on the data captured during Saffire-I and expands the test portfolio with new materials. The nine samples in the experiment kit include a cotton-fiberglass blend, Nomex, and the same acrylic glass that is used for spacecraft windows. After Cygnusdeparts the station, and before its destructive reentry to Earth, mission controllers on the ground will remotely ignite the samples.


Launched April 18, 2017 aboard Orbital ATK’sseventh contracted commercial resupply services mission for NASA.

The third in the Saffire series, Saffire-IIIwill test the same cotton-fiberglass blend that was burned in Saffire-I, but at a higher flow velocity. Saffire-III will be ignited after the Cygnus module departs the space station in early June, before its destructive entry through Earth’s atmosphere.

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